By Livia Caroline Neves | Translation: Magali da Silva

Surfing can be a spiritual connection between a person, the sea and the other elements in nature. Something that cannot be explained with words alone. The origin of surfing came from the people of the Island of Uros, in the Peru, that 450 years ago defied the sea in rafts made of “totora”, a type of straw. The fishermen would stand over the rafts, and with help of paddles, ride the waves to the beach. These rafts are the “granddaddies” of the early and famous surfboards, made of peroba and balsa (type of wood) for George Freeth and Duke Kahanamoku in the first years of twenty century in Hawaii.

However, the origin of surfing always brings a great controversy. The Hawaiians would go “ride” down the waves for the simple and pure pleasure to make it, the Peruvians, as a way “to come back” from work. Currently the Hawaiians are given credit for originating the sport; however, the Peruvians try to defend this claim. Some historians believe the Incas are descended from ancient Hawaiian’s who ventured to the pacific in giant outrigger canoes. Legends or not, these stories make some sense. Only in the 50’s appeared the fiberglass resins and cloth, materials more resistant and flexible, which made the surfboard faster and more agile.

From this era, the evolution of surfing was given a tremendous jump, with the way surfboards were made. Currently the technological innovations have improved the materials, and the shaping techniques. The first international competition occurred in 1953 in Hawaii, the capital of surfing. Currently, we have the worldwide surfing circuits and are divided in two divisions:  WCT, the first division, that compete the best ones; e WQS, the second division in which the surfers fight to enter in the first and privileged division. Recently, Duke Kahanamoku was pointed by the American magazine “Surfer” as the surfer of the century. Totally deserved! It was he who introduced surfing in United States and Australia, not to mention helping to preserve it. “The Duke” is considered as “the father of modern surfing”.

The Brazilian Surf

The first surfers in Brazil would have appeared in the city of Santos, in the coastal area of Sao Paulo State in the decade of the thirties. Who knows for sure? So many years had passed that it is practically impossible to affirm with certainty who was the pioneer. One affirms that Osmar Gonçalves, Silvio Malzoni and João Roberto Suplicy Haffers – the Juá, would have been the first Brazilian surfers. More exactly in the year of 1938 in the city of Santos, according to Osmar, his father gave him a copy of the  American magazine “Popular Mechanics”, and from there, the boys would have got the plans of constructing of a legitimate Hawaiian board.

Silvio then gave up the trick. Osmar and Juá continued surfing and having fun for years, and impressing the girls! Years later, Diniz Iozzi – or “Pardal”, found a new protagonist of this Saga. Thomas Rittscher, an American naturalized Brazilian, today with 85 years, affirmed that he would have been the must important name for the appearance of Surfing in Brazil. It may have happened between the years of 1934 and 1936. Osmar has unhappily already left us, and for the fact he can not be present to claim his recognition as the Pioneer of Surfing in Brazil. Osmar, Thomas, Juá and Silvio had been part of the same clan in Santos during the decade of 30’s. All them had the privilege and pure stoke of enjoying the fun and healthy lifestyle of the Surfer. However, these pioneers did not produce the surf culture.

The seed had a good intention, but it did not germinate. Surfing as a culture, as a life style, was born in Rio de Janeiro!  It was on the “Arpoardor” beach in Rio de Janeiro that really can be considered as the cradle of Brazilian surfing. In the start, in middle of 40’s, the surfer got the waves by kneeling or lying (in the style of bodyboard) in small wooden surfboard.

Later came new people, new ideas, and the wooden surfboard had appeared, wooden without keels or Skaggs, were known as “Doors of the Church”. Perhaps the first surfer to be stand up on a surfboard in Rio is a “mythological guy”: Paulo Preguiça, and later his friends Jorge Paulo Lehman and Irencyr Beltrão. Another group addicted by the love for the ocean also tried the sensations of surfing. Bruno Hermanny, George Grand, Domingos Castello Branco and Rubens Torres were divers and practicing spear fishermen. Besides these two carioca groups, still exists the legend that in1947, Luis Carlos Vital would have stood over an enormous wooden surfboard nicknamed DC-4 – an enormous commercial airplane at this time. Official registers of this fact do not exist. Soon, this episode enters in the roll of the probabilities, stories and legends of our tribe.

During this time in Brazil, anything that floated could be used as a surfboard. The use of any wood in “format” of surfboard, with help of duckfeet (swimfins) were common – used to compensate for the lack of buoyancy. However, around 1957/58 a third group of surfers was formed in Rio. The group was set by already mentioned Irencyr Beltrão, Arduíno Colassanti and Mucio Palmeira. At this time, Irencyr found a carpenter in Governor Island (district of Rio), who would come to be, perhaps, our first shaper. His name was Moacir, and its ability to build and shape wooden surfboards with the Skaggs quickly became famous in Rio de Janeiro beach. The carioca surf movement started to set up as at this time more people had access to materials with a minimum of quality. Later, Irencyr and its brother Ciro Beltrão, founded their own wooden boardshop in Jacarepaguá¡, perhaps the first surfboard factory in Brazil.

In the beginning surfing had a direct connection with all other sea-going activities: diving, spearfishing, to jump from the rocks, etc. Certain day was to have a free-diving championship, but as the Surf came up, the organizers decided change the competition, and take advantage of those big waves, through a surfing championship. The first championship appeared in the country, and the prize was a free barbecue on the beach for the winner and friends.

With the arrival of the 60’s, surfing in Brazil started a realistic evolution. The first surfboards made with fiberglass appeared, and the first official championships were created. The music of Beatles, Beach Boys, Elvis and Chuck Berry, would be playing at any surf event. The styles to wear, to dance, to think and to speak in these years were dictated by the surfers. They amused groups were mostly found in the arpoador beach. The girls could not resist the wide shoulders, long hair, colorful and convertible cars full of long boards playing the Beatles on the radio.

Surfing was a fashion!  And the first official recognition from the authorities came with the regulation of an exclusive area for surfing in the “arpoador”. That way, the local police had to stop the confiscating of surfboards, as before surfing was illegal! Not unlike the way skateboarding has been in the USA. The evolution of Brazilian Surfing continued infecting more people over time. New stories were created about perfect days of surfing, controversies, discoveries of new peaks or locations, and even women became interested in the sport and what it is about. The blend of dreams with positive initiatives had made and is still growing with more intensity today, Brazil a country of surfers!

Most Surfers feel a connection and “grounding” when they are in the ocean, which cannot be explained with words alone…it is the connection between the cosmic energy of the wave and you, making the soul and the spirit to feel the freedom and comfort of riding in the tube of a wave only to be spit out and reborn over and over again!

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